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Testers...The Covid-19 team operating in Butler St, Timaru, are, fom left, Jenny Ryan, Chris Chamberlain (swabbers), Janet Dodd (clinical lead) and Sophie Brown (office). PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

The South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) is warning that with the move to Level 2 greater care will have to be taken.

“We will need to be even more vigilant because more people will be circulating in South Canterbury,” SCDHB chief executive Nigel Trainor says.

“We must stick to the physical distancing rules and continue to practise good hand hygiene.”

Since opening on March 26 hundreds of people have gone through the region’s main Covid-19 drive-through testing station in Butler St, Timaru.

“We’ve averaged around 20 on a quiet day with the biggest number being 85,” clinical lead Janet Dodd said.

“There’s been some positive tests.”

A mobile unit has also been deployed visiting people in their homes, as well as rest homes. Staff at rest homes were randomly tested. Targeted testing focused also on Maori and Pacific people, essential workers, health workers from the Covid-19 testing clinic and Covid-19 ward. A pop-up clinic has operated in the Mackenzie and a drive-through clinic was held in Waimate today .

Altogether 2352 tests have been completed in South Canterbury as at Sunday, May 10.

Statistics from the SCDHB showed a total of five confirmed/probable cases in Timaru district since the crisis began, seven in Waimate district and five in Mackenzie district.

Of the 17 cases, 15 had recovered and two were active.

Most of the positive cases for Timaru and Waimate were tested at the Butler St drive-through.

The clinic has operated seven days a week from 9am to 2pm and only tested people referred from general practices, the hospital emergency department or community pharmacies.

“When they drive in we have someone do a meet and greet; we get a mask for them. Then staff in PPE (personal protective equipment) gear check the name of the person, their identity and photo ID and ask for symptoms,” Mrs Dodd said.

“We get employment details from them or where they have been for tracing and we explain the practice for the swab.”

Publicity has circulated stating the swab could be painful but Mrs Dodd said in general it was “a very odd sensation”.

She described it was being more of “a tingling feeling”.

They did not want to put off children being tested. To make it easier for children the mobile units did testing in their homes and used smaller swabs. The testing was done by two staff in PPE gear. The swabs were taken away for analysis and the results known within 24 to 48 hours.

An information sheet was given to the people about what the next steps would be. If symptoms persisted and worsened even though a swab had been negative it was recommended they called their GP or Healthline on 800358-5453. South Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Dr Cheryl Brunton said contact tracing for people who tested positive started as soon as test results were received.

“South Canterbury DHB’s Community and Public Health team identify and inform the close contacts of confirmed or probable cases.”